SARANSK, March 29 (Itar-Tass) — Seven of the 35 members of a doomsday cult who shut themselves up in caves beneath a hill in the Penza Region have agreed to rise to the surface, the regions’ deputy governor, Oleg Melnichenko, told Itar-Tass.
The deputy governor is in the village of Ivanovka, close the scene. The deputy governor, chief of the Bekovo district authorities and rescue workers spent a whole day on Friday conducting talks with the cultists. More negotiations are due on Saturday.
“All of the seven cult members who have emerged from the cave are women,” Melnichenko said. “All are in good health, so no urgent medical assistance proved necessary.”
Apparently, the cult has split. When water began to fill their shelter after prolonged rains and the roof began to cave in, some of the sect members yielded to rescuers’ persuasions and left the cave. Currently they are in the village of Nikolskoye, in the home of the sect’s founder Pyotr Kuznetsov. The man was especially brought for talks from a local psychiatric hospital, where he has been taking a course of treatment after medics ruled he was insane.
“The women who have left the cave will stay all alone till May, when, they claim, the end of the world will come,” Melnichenko said. “That was their condition we promised to observe. We guaranteed their privacy. The cultists’ another condition was a ban on filming and photographing. This will be far more difficult to ensure, because the media are too insistent, but we shall do our best to meet this requirement, too.”
The area of the cave is cordoned off by police. The lives of cultists remaining underground are not in danger, Melnichenko said. After several cave-ins they moved to the part of the cave where trees’ roots reinforce the soil overhead.
The 35 people – some citizens of Belarus and others – residents of several regions of Russia (the sect’s founder Kuznetsov alone is Penza Region-borne) left their homes to take barricade themselves in caves they had dug beforehand late last October. Some of them are children. The cultists have gasoline canisters they may set on fire incase of intervention.